Education

New Elk Grove school signals restart of campus construction in Sacramento County

Video: First day of school at Marion Mix Elementary in Elk Grove

Marion Mix is believed to be the first new traditional school to open in Sacramento County since 2009. Video by Diana Lambert, dlambert@sacbee.com
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Marion Mix is believed to be the first new traditional school to open in Sacramento County since 2009. Video by Diana Lambert, dlambert@sacbee.com

Elk Grove Unified celebrated the first day of school Thursday by opening Marion Mix Elementary School.

It was a long time coming.

The district approved plans for the K-6 school a decade ago, but halted construction on the $18.5 million project when the recession brought an abrupt stop to home construction and students stopped rolling in.

“This may be the longest school construction site that has ever happened in the history of California,” said Superintendent Christopher Hoffman during opening-day festivities at the school Thursday. “Kids, you have a neighborhood school now!”

Marion Mix is believed to be the first new traditional school to open in Sacramento County since 2009 and signals the restart of campus construction in county suburbs for the first time since the recession. A lack of developer and bond funds, enrollment declines in the Sacramento City and San Juan unified school districts, and a building moratorium in Natomas contributed to a dormant period in the county.

Elk Grove Unified is eyeing construction of another school and has demand in Laguna Ridge and Rancho Cordova. Natomas Unified will begin construction on Natomas Star Academy in September and is looking for land for another school near Interstate 80 after a flood-risk building moratorium was lifted in June.

Marion Mix already has 670 students – more than three-quarters of its capacity of 850. The district’s 40th elementary school is named after the first woman to teach science in Elk Grove; Mix taught in the district from 1924 to 1950.

On Thursday, teachers, parents and students said they were excited and impressed with the technology and appearance of the new two-story school in Laguna.

“It is gorgeous,” said Jami Johnson, a second-grade teacher. “I have never seen anything like it. My class is amazing. It has two windows.”

Johnson said each classroom is equipped with built-in speakers, a projector hanging from the ceiling, a document camera to project information onto a white board and pendulum lights for optimum classroom lighting. “I’m really excited to get started teaching with this technology,” she said.

Elk Grove Unified hopes to start work on elementary schools in Laguna Ridge and Rancho Cordova this year, but may have only enough money to start one school, Robert Pierce, the district’s associate superintendent of facilities and planning.

Tony Cerna brought his daughter Melanie to school for her first day of kindergarten. He said he was happy that a new school with high-tech classrooms had opened just down the street from their home.

Mother Jennifer Harris said she liked the separate entrances into the school for different grade levels and the online feature that allows parents to check if and when their children arrive at school. Her kids – Kalani, 10, and Kaden, 7 – were eager to start the day, spotting many of their old classmates in the crowd. “I have friends,” said Kaden, excitedly.

The excitement was palpable when the school’s 32 teachers led students dressed in khakis and blue, green and white polo shirts into the courtyard of the school while parents lined up to shoot photos and videos.

“It is really magical,” said Principal Shelly Clark.

The majority of Marion Mix students came from nearby Irene B. West, Joseph Sims and John Ehrhardt elementary schools. West and Sims would have had more than 1,400 students each if the new school hadn’t been built, Pierce said.

Marion Mix was the last school in Elk Grove Unified to receive state matching funds before the state account ran dry. Pierce said there is not enough money in school district coffers to build schools, which start at $20 million to $25 million for an elementary campus.

“We have a dire need right here, right now for two additional schools,” he said, adding that the district added 1,200 more housing units last school year.

Marion Mix is believed to be the first new traditional school to open in Sacramento County since 2009. Video by Diana Lambert, dlambert@sacbee.com

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

Marion Mix Elementary School

  • The 75,000-square-foot K-6 elementary school is a unique two-story building. It cost $18.5 million to construct.
  • Principal: Shelly Clark
  • Mascot: Mavericks
  • Motto: “Know thy impact ... on self, on others, on our community and on the planet.”
  • Namesake: Marion Mix, the first woman to teach science in Elk Grove. Mix worked as a teacher and substitute in the district from 1924 to 1950.
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